Congress must pass legislation that would permanently ban the Schedule F designation for federal workers, the Washington Post editorial board said.
Former President Donald Trump created the designation by executive order near the end of his term, just ahead of the 2020 election. The order would have removed long-held protections from tens of thousands of career bureaucrats, making them easier to dismiss. That would give the president vast powers to reshape the federal government at will — and could politicize positions long treated as nonpartisan, the board said.
“The Trump administration attempted unsuccessfully to rush through the change before the end of its term, and, upon taking office, President Biden immediately rescinded the order,” the board said in an editorial published Aug. 30. “But, according to a troubling recent report from Axios’s Jonathan Swan, Mr. Trump and his associates plan to quickly reinstate Schedule F if he is elected in 2024, using it to fire career employees and replace them with loyalists. Other potential GOP presidential hopefuls have also indicated they would consider targeting the federal workforce.”
The federal bureaucracy includes some 2 million employees who keep the government operating. The Trump administration claimed Schedule F is needed to make it easier for supervisors to remove poor performers.
“No doubt there are ways to reform evaluation and dismissal processes so they are more nimble and responsive,” the Post editorial board said. “But much of our government’s expertise rests with civil servants. A system that sees more people enter and leave federal agencies with the political churn would be less knowledgeable and efficient.”
Schedule F would also eliminate one of the major appeals of federal jobs: the understanding that there will be some measure of stability even when there are changes in administrations, it said.
Democrats have introduced legislation that would forestall such a possibility. The Preventing a Patronage System Act, sponsored by Rep. Gerald E. Connolly of Virginia would block positions from being classified outside the existing system unless Congress consents. He sponsored this as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, and it passed the House last month.
Six Democratic senators, led by Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia have introduced companion legislation that would do the same thing. These measures would uphold protections for federal workers and reduce opportunities for patronage-based hiring in the future, the Post board said.
“Populist politicians point to the ‘deep state’ as the root of America’s ills,” it said, “In fact, what they cast as a threat — a professional, merit-based, experienced civil service — is one of the country’s greatest assets.”